Senate Hopefuls Consider Native Challenges

Oct 14, 2014

Candidates Gordon Howie, Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and Mike Rounds answer questions from forum moderator Jack Marsh / October 13, 2014
Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Candidates for United States Senate are weighing in on the federal government’s role in Indian Affairs. The four men running for South Dakota’s open seat met Monday at a Sioux Falls Rotary Club lunch for a panel discussion. Candidates agree that something needs to change for sovereign Indian nations.

Gordon Howie is running for US Senate as an Independent. He says poverty and dysfunction exist on Native American reservations because politicians claim they champion Indian communities and don’t follow through on their support.

Republican candidate Mike Rounds says economic development on reservation land is scarce, which leads to low employment.

"Right now, if you want a job on the res, you’re talking about either a tribal job, you’re talking about a school jobs, or you’re talking about BIA – maybe Indian health, Native American health," Rounds says.

Rounds and Indepdendent Larry Pressler agree that creating business on reservations is challenging because of land trusts. Pressler says Native Americans must be empowered to lead their economic development projects. 

"To develop things like aquaculture on the reservation so they can make money. To have small businesses with bank rural bank loans," Pressler says.

Another candidate, Democrat Rick Weiland, says economic development is difficult when reservations lack basic infrastructure to support business – and everyday life.

The four men running for United States Senate have four different perspectives on the federal government’s proper role. Pressler says the federal government’s job is to function, and he says partisan politics now stop that from happening.

Democrat Rick Weiland says the fed’s role is to govern with fairness.

"I think the federal government needs to be an honest referee. We need to make sure that the super-rich and power don’t swipe our democracy from everyday folks in this country, and I think that’s what’s happened," Weiland says.

Two other candidates have different views. Republican Mike Rounds says the federal government’s job is defense of the country, including securing the physical borders.

Independent candidate Gordon Howie says the number one job of the fed is to keep regulations out of the way of private enterprise.